I posted my last update at the end of June. We were frustrated beyond measure, feeling quite a bit of despair and like we were grasping at straws. There was nothing we could do to move the mountains that we saw in front of us. That was a hopeless feeling.
Oh, but then... Just as his referral came to us out of what felt like the clear, blue sky, so did the call to go to Africa.
We had been told that our redo prelim had not happened due to power outages. I received word that our case had to be "re-opened" with the federal courts because it had been so long since we had made any progress that they had closed our case. It was hard NOT to feel hopeless. Then Thursday July 2nd my phone rang. When I saw that it was our case worker, I actually heaved a big sigh of frustration. I expected more of the same "well here's the problem...." talk from her. I had been hearing it for months now. Instead, she said "are your bags packed?" I said "of course not, why?" She asked me, "How soon can you get packed? We need you in court on July 9th. Which means you need to be in Ethiopia by July 7th." Five days to pack, plan, and get half way around the world, over a holiday weekend? Sure. Why not?
From that point on it really did feel like a lot of things fell into place. My ER co-worker was actually right there and agreed to cover the ER for a few minutes so I could go deliver the news to Brett in person. We then went and found Madigan and told her too. Lots of jumping, hugging, and squealing ensued. :) The next few days were a blur as we made last minute travel arrangements, packed, and took off for Denver. A high school friend works for Hyatt and hooked us up with an amazing hotel room in Denver and a place to park our vehicle. We also found out that a fellow WaKeeney-ian was on the same flight from DC to Addis Ababa with us! How crazy. We flew from Denver to DC, stayed the night there and got up on July 5th to board the plane to Addis. July 5th is also Madigan's birthday- the 7th one to be exact- and she took the lack of birthday party like a champion. Not many 7 year olds spend 13 hours on a plane, without cake, gifts, party or friends, but she didn't complain once.
When we arrived in Addis, we got through customs and took a 90 minute car ride to Adama, Ethiopia where our son is staying. We arrived at the hotel and our in country guide was kind enough to offer to give us a few hours to nap, shower and rest- but the problem was.... we were in the same town as our son, and after 3.5 years of being in this process and 1 year of staring at his face every day we did NOT want to wait! After some begging and a phone call to make sure we were welcome to come to the orphanage at an "off visiting hour" time.... away we went.
When we pulled into the gates, we unloaded and before we could really anticipate anything- there he was. The moment you meet your child for the first time is surreal- whether it's in the delivery room after a 16 hour labor, or in an orphanage courtyard after 16 hours of traveling. (And before you wonder- labor with Madigan was 8 hours and nothing compared to a 16 hour trip halfway around the world. The next person who tells me that adoption is the "instant family option" is getting punched in the nose.)
Those first few moments you see your child for the first time are ones that get burned into your memory forever. There wasn't any anxiety or crazy butterflies- it was just that feeling in your soul of "oh, there you are! I've been looking for you!" He was as perfect as we had seen in pictures and imagined him to be. More so, maybe. Elias is very shy. He watches everything, and processes internally. Those first few hours of getting to know him, and him getting to know us were awesome. I'm so thankful we took Madigan. She was an amazing traveler, taking everything in stride and still having a great attitude when she was hot, exhausted and hungry. The three days we got to spend in Adama going to the orphanage to visit were amazing, a blog post all of it's own later. Court that Thursday July 9th was a breeze- about 10 questions making sure that we understood that the adoption was official and non-revocable, that we were prepared to care for him and that we intended to celebrate his Ethiopian heritage, and the judge spoke the most beautiful words, "The Ethiopian court approves of this adoption." With that he was ours, Elias was officially a Hille and Madigan shook the judge's hand saying "Amesegnalehu" (Thank you in Amharic) We celebrated that night with a traditional Ethiopian meal at an amazing restaurant in Addis. Madigan got called up on the stage and danced with the dancers and I had one of those surreal moments of thought....
*One week ago we had gotten a call to travel to Ethiopia, and now my daughter is doing a traditional Ethiopian dance in the Capitol city on the day her brother became a Hille. *
It's crazy awesome how quickly things can go from feeling like there are insurmountable odds stacked against you, to suddenly being right where you've always dreamed of being. And of course knowing that although we felt like we couldn't move those mountains we realized that we never did. Seeing all the things along the way that just felt like God was showing us how HE can and did move them, putting people in our path along the way to remind us- that was awesome too.
Coming home was hard. Leaving the orphanage was hard. Lots of hard things still lie ahead of us. I don't doubt any of that for a minute, just like I don't doubt that He will show us where He is along the way then too.
The question everyone asks is, "What now?"
We had to leave Elias there until his case clears Embassy. We use the adoption decree given to us by the Ethiopian court to get our son a passport; and we can apply for an exit Visa once that's obtained. We will be given an Embassy appointment and when that appointment is made, we know when we can go back and travel with him HOME forever. Our agency estimates that to be about 4-6 weeks, so we are praying to be back in Ethiopia by mid to late August.
Also several people are asking us what we need. We don't have a lot of "needs" for Elias, really. His room is mostly ready. Clothing, shoes, and diapers are about the only things that we can always use more of. We are also planning to do one more fundraiser very soon. The cost of getting last minute tickets out of the country on a holiday weekend was astronomical, so we are hoping to offset the cost of the second trip by doing a raffle. :)
The support we have from everyone in our immediate community and from near and far has been amazing. We feel blessed to know as many people as we do who have reached out with kind words and messages.
It's never felt so good to post a blog update with GOOD news for once!!